Sunderland ‘gentle giant’s’ death was suicide, inquest rules

Lee Downey.
Lee Downey.
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A man whose body was found on a beach took his own life, a coroner has ruled.

The inquest hearing in Sunderland heard that gentle giant Lee Downey, whose body was found on Seaham beach, died as a result of a traumatic head injury after falling from a height.

Lee Downey with his daughter Millie.

Lee Downey with his daughter Millie.

Lee, 35, who had struggled with mental health problems, suffered a multitude of other injuries consistent with a fall, the hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre was told.

Sunderland Senior Coroner Derek Winter heard a summary of evidence read by his officer, Neville Dixon.

Mr Dixon said the dad-of-two had been reported missing from his home in Grindon Court, Sunderland, at 3.40am on Monday, March 6.

A thorough search was launched involving multiple agencies, including a police helicopter, the Coast Guard and Marine Unit.

I am satisfied that Lee was responsible for his own death, that he had a clear intention to end his own life, and that on March 8, his body was found on the beach at Seaham, having sustained a fatal head injury due to a fall from a height

Derek Winter, Sunderland Senior Coroner

Hospitals were checked, as were social media and bank accounts held by Lee, and mental health services including the crisis team were notified.

Appeals were also made in the media.

A member of the public out for a walk on Seaham beach, discovered Lee’s body at 6.46am on March 8.

a post mortem revealed a number of injuries including a skull fracture, a subdural haemorrhage, a pelvic fracture and numerous abrasions.

“The conclusion in the opinion of the pathologist is that he has died as a result of a traumatic head injury, due to a fall from a height,” Mr Dixon said.

The inquest heard toxicology tests revealed cocaine and amphetamine in Lee’s system, along with therapeutic levels of medicinal drugs.

Mr Dixon said Lee had made “certain expressions of his intentions”, but did not elaborate further, adding that there were no signs of third-party involvement.

Mr Winter said: “On March 6, Lee had gone missing.

“Despite extensive enquiries to locate Lee by friends, family and emergency services, sadly on March 8, at 6.46am his body was found by a passer-by on Seaham beach.

“I am satisfied that Lee was responsible for his own death, that he had a clear intention to end his own life, and that on March 8, his body was found on the beach at Seaham, having sustained a fatal head injury due to a fall from a height.

“The appropriate conclusion is one of suicide.”